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Coronavirus: Here’s what declining airline revenues could mean for state economies

While we wait for news on a financial assistance deal for the airlines I decided to model what the latest estimate from IATA Economics and others–a roughly 20% revenue decline for the year–would look like for states and metros with significant concentrations of jobs and economic activity in the airline industry. As you might guess, it’s not pretty.

The Scheduled Passenger Air Transportation industry (just passengers, no freight, for this exercise) contributes $124 billion to U.S. GDP and employs nearly 450,000 workers, according to Emsi, a labor market analytics firm. Average earnings per worker ($113,000) are very high, which means these jobs are critical drivers of other jobs in the labor market (i.e. a large multiplier effect). That’s great for the purpose of economic development in good times but can be catastrophic when that industry hits a down cycle. Current times certainly qualify.

Using Emsi’s model of the national economy, an estimated 20% decline in sales would result in losses of about 96,000 jobs and $10.7 billion in earnings in the Scheduled Passenger Air Transportation industry. Total losses to the U.S. economy would be nearly 928,000 jobs, $58 billion in earnings, and $12 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

Here’s how the estimated 20% sales decrease could impact states with significantly larger concentrations of jobs in the industry compared to the U.S. economy as a whole:

Approximately two-thirds of job losses in the industry would happen in those fourteen states.

Metropolitan areas with major hubs, such as Atlanta or Chicago, would absorb most of those employment and earnings losses, of course, and the impacts would be dramatic. Projected employment declines in the New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta metropolitan areas would top 30,000, each. State and local tax revenue decreases would range from about $257 million in the Atlanta metro area to $479 million in New York. Places like Miami, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Charlotte would also be hit hard.

There are apparently several scenarios being discussed right now in terms of a rescue strategy for the airlines, and I’m sure the industry experts will continue to adjust their forecasts as new information is available. I’ll update this post as I see new estimates released. Also, please get in touch if you would like results (or other scenarios) for states or metropolitan areas I did not mention here.